Short Answer: Muslims don’t kiss the ground, we place our foreheads on it in prayer. Our dignity is found in submission to God, our Creator. In prostration, we are nearest to God.
Salam (Peace) Dear Arthur,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
To answer your question let me clear up some confusion.
First of all, Muslims do not kiss the ground when they pray; they simply place their forehead and the bridge of their nose on the ground.
They believe there is no God beside Him, the Creator of existence, and because of this, they bow their head humbly in respect to Him, while praying.
Submission IS Our Source of Dignity
In fact, the dignity of a believer is in his/her absolute submission to his/her Creator, only to this Creator, and no one else.
God does not need our worship; it is we who need Him. Prayer is – or should be – of benefit to us.
The Muslim should be humble and concentrate totally on his/her prayer.
‘Holding one’s head up with dignity’ has a touch of pride or arrogance about it – the ego is showing. How can man be arrogant in front of God?
Everything we do is with the help of God, whether we admit it or not. For this, we should be grateful. We should humble ourselves in our prayer.
Therefore, we bow and say: ‘All praise is for God the Greatest’ – in terms of awe and reverence.
Then, we really show our humility by touching the ground with our forehead during prostration and saying: ‘All praise is for God Most High.’
The Beauty of Sujood, or Prostration
Just look at us in this position, we are as humble as possible and we are recognizing, as far as we are able, the greatness of God. God tells us:
… but prostrate and draw near [to Allah]. (Quran 96:19)
And your Lord says: “Call upon Me, I will respond to you. Indeed, those who disdain My worship will enter Hell humiliated.” (Quran 40:60)
Abu Hurayah (may God be pleased with him) reported that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
The closest that a servant can be to his Lord is when he is in prostration. Therefore, make abundant supplications [while prostrating]. (Muslim)
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said regarding the ground:
The whole earth is a masjid (a point of prostration or a mosque) for me and my followers. (Muslim)
In other words, formal prayer can be prayed anywhere on earth, not just in a mosque.
This is why one sees people, praying anywhere and everywhere, even stopping their vehicles and praying by the side of the road. This happens particularly in Muslim countries.
And, Allah knows best.
(From Ask About Islam’s archives)